Yangchen C Rinzin

Thimphu and Paro will remain under lockdown for at least 14 more days, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering told Kuensel yesterday evening.

That is provided there are no positive Covid-19 cases from the community for the next two weeks. This means the lockdown in the two red zone dzongkhags could extend depending on the situation.

“The government plans to relax the lockdown if there are absolutely no cases from the communities or detected at the flu clinic for a minimum of 14 days,” Lyonchhen said. “This is justified based on epidemiological grounds where cases are still detected from the communities.”

After having no cases from communities for four straight days last week, cases have re-emerged from the communities. Of the four cases detected yesterday, two cases were residents of Changzamtog detected at the RBP flu clinic.

Thimphu completes the 21-day lockdown period today. The nationwide lockdown has completed 19 days.

Lyonchhen said that cases detected from cluster transmission, contacts of positive cases or from the quarantine would not be counted. They are already under the radar and monitored.

Cluster transmission means cases from specific areas. Community transmission means cases detected from the entire community where the cases have no connection to other positive cases detected earlier.

“Only then we can relax the lockdown. We unlock when the disease is under control and there are no unsuspected cases from flu clinics like yesterday,” Lyonchhen said. “We can conclude there is no disease spreading if there is no case from communities and unlocking will start.”

However, if there are a few or minimum cases, the plan is to “sweep” the capital and Paro once and start further relaxation. The plan also includes relaxing restrictions if there are no cases from the super zones in Thimphu for about 10 days. For instance, allow people to come out without a card, but on foot.

The government will keep announcing if it comes up with any decision on the unlocking. “It is too early to unlock right now given the situation,” Lyonchhen said. “Unlocking will depend on cases and most important, it is in the hands of the public.”

As for the rest of the dzongkhags, which are green zone, Lyonchhen said that the government has planned to scan all dzongkhags by January 15. “If the result indicates there are no positive cases, then further relaxation will begin. Until then, the first phase of unlocking will remain the same.”

The yellow zones are Lhamoidzingkha Throm in Dagana, Domkhar and Chamkhar in Bumthang, Phenteykha in Punakha, Pelela in Wangduephodrang, Kela in Trongsa and Katsho and Uesu gewogs in Haa.

Except for Thimphu and Paro, dzongkhags that are considered green zones were allowed to move within the dzongkhag from January 6.

The movement was allowed only on foot except for utility vehicles. Use of public or private vehicles is considered if urgent.

The movement in the yellow zone are limited to only cardholders. Emergency cases to travel out of the yellow zone are required to have clearance from the respective taskforce. The travellers must undergo RT-PCR test.

The government declared the nationwide lockdown on December 23 last year.